Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Time of the Week When I Rank Things: Adult Swim

I’ve been watching some odd television lately. I happened across someone that liked The Mighty Boosh, which has only happened one other time in my life. So we’ve been watching that, and Snuffbox. I’ve been watching a bit of Wilfred, a show soon to be imported to the US. And while I’d be hard-pressed to say I’ve been culturing myself, I think there’s something to be said for experiencing intentionally novel, unique and bizarre things. Today I’m going to rank some of my favorite bizarre shows, that have been conveniently compiled into Adult Swim.

I’m not always a fan of avant-garde comedy. As much as I admire Andy Kaufman, I don’t necessarily laugh at his bits. But Adult Swim is just the right mix of highbrow, lowbrow, bizarre and sublime. But even saying that, I don’t like a lot of their programming. Squidbillies? No thanks. I’m only a lukewarm fan of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, one of their most successful enterprises. But below I’ve listed my Top 10 from Adult Swim. Every entry here would bear the warning “Most people won’t like this, but some people will love it.” And that’s the programming I most enjoy.

1. Space Ghost: Coast to Coast

Why do I love this show? I’m not sure. The pacing is often poor. The visuals are atrocious. But it’s got just the right mix of nostalgia and post-modern flair that cracks me up to this day. No one I’ve ever shown it to has liked it other than my two best friends when I was 13, but we loved it. And that’s enough.

2. Sealab 2021/Frisky Dingo/Archer

A bit of a cheat, since these are 3 entirely different shows, and one of them isn’t even on Adult Swim, it’s on FX. But it’s the same humor and it’s out of this world. Frisky Dingo is like Arrested Development, only dirtier, more esoteric and with superheroes. Sealab 2021 was my friend litmus test for several years. Archer is the new kid on the block, but it often makes me laugh with single words of dialogue, like a character saying “Danger-zone.”


For the most part, Adult Swim gets anime shows years after they’ve hit it big, so I’ve seen them and already given them a thumbs up or thumbs down. FLCL came out of nowhere, and remains a favorite of mine. To people that complain about Inception being confusing, I invite you to try FLCL. It’s extremely confusing, but extremely stylish and very rewarding.

4. The Venture Brothers

This was a strange one because I hated the first couple episodes and left it alone for years. A Johnny Quest knockoff? Who wants to watch that? Turns out, me. This show is hilarious. It doesn’t have machine-gun rate jokes like other comedies on this list, but it’s just resoundingly clever. It’s a spoof of a pastiche of an homage of a knockoff. It’s got a gigantic cast of bizarre, endearing characters. It’s got David Bowie. It’s great.

5. Home Movies

I used to watch this show every Sunday night with a group of friends, and the socializing is part of the enjoyment. It’s a much kinder, gentler show than many on this list. But it’s definitely a quality contribution to animated television, especially to squigglevision.

6. Children’s Hospital

I’ve never actually watched this show on Cartoon Network. I first came across it on the internet, but then Adult Swim saw the same gem I saw and snatched it up. Your jaw will drop with the number of funny people crammed into one show. Then it will drop again by the horrible things they say. And then maybe you’ll start laughing.

7. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!/ Tom Goes to the Mayor

I think I may have posted about this before, but TaEASGJ is the strangest television show I have ever seen. And if you can think of a strange show that I haven’t watched, hats off to you. But truly, the amount of talent required to make this show this weird is breathtaking.

8. Samurai Champloo

This is from the same group that made Cowboy Bebop, one of the greats of anime. It’s not as good as Bebop, but it’s close. And it has samurais and ninjas and rap music and flying squirrels. It’s a success.

9. Robot Chicken

The 12 minutes of each RC episode flies by like 12 seconds. They cut from joke to joke so quickly, you may not register your laugh until the episode is over. And honestly, at least half the jokes are obvious, sophomoric or just uninspired. But the episode goes so quickly, that you’ll get back to a funny joke before you can groan. If you need a show to test your nerd knowledge, this is a good place to start.

10. Paranoia Agent

Considered by some the masterwork of Satoshi Kon, this show is a trip. I realize that 99.5% of you don’t know who Satoshi Kon is, but trust me, he’s talented. And this show demonstrates the complex stories possible on television if you let a talented guy run wild.

Honorable mentions:
Shows that are very entertaining, which have aired on Adult Swim, but which I watched elsewhere:

Cowboy Bebop
The Mighty Boosh
Family Guy
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Death Note

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